anticipation of possible agreement on the fiscal cliff. no deal has been reached yet, but both democrats and republicans have scheduled party caucus meetings this afternoon with the senate likely to recess for those meetings. legislative work will start with executive nominations. we are live now in the senate floor on c-span 2.
the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. mighty god, have mercy upon us because of your unfailing love. because of your great compassion, let us feel your presence today on capitol hill. as we gather this weekend with so much work left undone, guide our lawmakers with your wisdom. show them the right thing to do and give them the courage to do it. be their shelter in the midst of the storm, regardless of how high the waters rise.
when they feel exhausted, remind them of the great sufficiency of your grace. look with favor on our nation and save us from self-inflicted wounds. we pray in your great name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., december 30, 2012. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable michael f. bennet, a senator from the state of colorado, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: there will be an hour of debate on the galante nomination. at 2:00 p.m. there will be two roll call votes on confirmations of the nomination of carol greant to be assistant secretary at h.u.d. following those he votes thrib there will be a recess to allow for caucus meetings and the majority's meeting will begin at 3:00 today. would the chair announce the business of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations which the
clerk will report. the clerk: nominations, department of housing and urban development, carol j. galante of california to be an assistant secretary of housing and urban development. the judiciary, department of justice, william joseph bare of maryland to be an assistant attorney general. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 60 minutes of debate, equally divided in the usual form on the galante nomination. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: as we stand here, sit here, watch what's happening, we know that there are negotiations going on to avert at least part of the fiscal cliff. and i want to say, and i've
said this privately but i'll say it publicly, that i really hope our leaders can find a way out of this. i watched the president speak today and i thought as usual, he is very fair in what he said, mr. president. what he basically said is, it's the middle class that grows this economy, it's the middle class that needs to be lifted up, it's the middle class that can't afford tax hikes, and those at the very top can do just a little bit more. ates very simple point. and i just would hope, given that everyone says they're for the middle class -- i know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle say that every day, that they agree with that. that finding this compromise will not be elusive but will come to pass.
you know, i have been here for a while, and my understanding is we haven't met between christmas and new year's since 1962. so it does take a crisis, of major proportion, to make that happen. and i think we are in a crisis right now. but it's a self-made one, mr. president. it's a self-imposed one. it's like the crisis we had on the debt ceiling. self-imposed. it's not some god forbid exterior attack on our country, which we couldn't prevent. it's not some god forbid plague or a terrible virus that is running across the land. it's, to me, something that is not that complicated, as the president said. we had a series of tax cuts that
are expiring. if we let them expire, it means there will be a huge tax cut, mostly hitting the middle class and the working poor. and the upper incomes, the people in that category have done so well that even they say they would have to talk to their accountant before they even knew there was any impact on their tax bill. so we can come together now, the president's favored limit would be 250 thiewts meaning -- 250 thoots, meaning -- $250,000, everybody up to $250,000 gets a tax break, 100% of the people. those with higher incomes would go back to the tax rates that prevailed when bill clinton was president. why the other side, you know,
is horrified by that is perplexing to me. because i look back at the clint era, i was here. that's a long time ago. i was here. i came to the senate. with senator feinstein when bill clinton was president and he faced similar issues in that we had a deficit that was getting out of control, a debt that was getting out of control. we needed to have growth, and so he put forward a plan, a budget plan that invested in our people, invested in the infrastructure, invested in education, and at the same time said we can find cuts in other areas and we can raise taxes on those who are doing very well. and what happened with that fair and balanced approach? what happened was the greatest prosperity in modern history.
23 million jobs, no more deficits, we got to a balanced budget and i remember saying to my husband my goodness, what's going to happen? there won't be any more u.s. government bonds because we're going to be out of the debt situation. we saw -- we saw it on the horizon when george w. bush became president, he decided to go back, backwards on rates across the board from the wealthiest to the middle to the poor, and he put two wars on a credit card and we are where we are where we are. and to add to this history, we all know that we're coming out of the worst recession since the great depression. it has been difficult, led by, unfortunately, some unscrupulous people on wall street who created a nightmare
in the housing market. i remember saying to treasury secretary paulsen can you explain the rule of derivatives here and what happened and how we got into this crisis? and he put his head in his hands, mr. president, and he said not now. i'll talk to you later. now, that's not a very encouraging thing when the secretary of the treasury puts his head in his hands and says i can't explain it now. so we're coming out of this difficult time, and guess what -- we're doing much better. we had an election, it was pretty clear, people want to see us reach a balance here. so as i stand here, i know that there are negotiations going on in the rooms surrounding us. and i wish for the best. i hope for the best and i ask for the best. and there is a word called
"compromise." and it doesn't mean you compromise your principles but it means you can compromise because that's what the american people want us to do. yes, they do. and i want to give you an example. if you were out hiking and you saw -- and, mr. president, your state, there are a lot of hikers and you saw someone stuck on a cliff, trapped, swinging from a reason, and you knew the only way to save the person was to cut the reason, but you're standing with someone else and you say cut the reason at the top, and he says, well, cut the reason at the bottom, and you stand there arguing. meanwhile, the man is struggling on this cliff. let me down. wouldn't the smart thing to do, wouldn't it be smart to cut the reason in the middle? and save the guy.
you can argue later should i have cut the reason at the top or the bottom. no, cut it in the middle, save the man. that's a pretty simplistic example of where we are. but i have the privilege of knowing that we can get it done when we work together. i was so proud to bring to the senate a highway bill, a transportation bill. millions of jobs were at stake. our states were worried they would stop getting their highway funds. we would have had to stop road projects in the middle, wouldn't have had funding for transportation, for transit. but you know what happened? senator inhofe and i sat in a room, you couldn't find two people more diverse in our thinking, he a conservative republican, i a progressive liberal democrat and we sat in a room and he said i want this, this, and this. and i said i want that, that, and that. and then we said let's make a
deal here. let's meet in the middle here. and we did it. much to everyone's surprise. and that bill passed the senate. when it got to the house it got stuck, so senator inhofe and i and senator reid went over to meet with john boehner and chairman mica and we all agreed we'd get it done. neither side got everything they want and anyone who takes that position in my opinion is not putting country first. i don't care whether they are republican, a democrat, or anything else. we are not each of us going to get everything we want. lord knows. there's a lot i could do if i had a wand and could make it happen. but everybody has a different view of exactly how to go forward and i think we're being tested here. so i know it's tough going, and
i know if we don't get a deal, it doesn't stop there, we'll keep on working. but there is no reason on this beautiful god's green earth why we can't get a deal here. if everyone is sincere in saying they want the middle class could be protected, we can get a deal here. president obama says $250,000 is the line, maybe i think $350,000 is the line, maybe someone else $500,000, maybe somebody else $150,000. we can meet somewhere and cut that reason somewhere in the middle. and save this country from the uncertainty, the uncertainty that plagues us right now. in the olden days -- and i say olden, a long time ago -- i was a stock stockbroker. i was an economics major and a stockbroker on wall street. the thing wall street and investors can't take is
uncertainty. if they know taxes are going up, they'll refigure things. if they know taxes are going down, they'll refigure things. if they know taxes are staying things, they'll figure it out. but right now they're frozen. because they don't know. and families are also in many ways frozen. they don't know whether they have to budget so that they'll have $200 -- $2,000 less next year. they don't know whether it will be $4,000. they don't know if it's ever going to change. and the uncertainty is -- is the fault of leaders who cannot get together. so i think it is critical that we get a deal. i hope it's in the next couple of hours because, to me -- you know, somebody asked me, some reporter, "well, what's the difference if you get it now or five days from now?" i say the difference is this
uncertainty, this pall. and an unneeded escalating crisis. because then you say, well, we don't have to do it now, we'll do it on the 4th. well, we don't have to do it on the 4th, we'll do it on the 10th. get it done. america wants us to get it done. the president has shown he is willing to be flexible. he's come out with some ideas that i have to swallow very, very hard on to -- to accept. he is willing. i know how personally strongly he feels that $250,000 should be where we draw the line in terms of tax breaks, but he was willing to offer $400,000. he was willing to look at changing some of our programs. very tough for him to do. but he's willing to do it, even though he ran on his program and won by millions of votes on his program.
so if the president can be flexible and say, okay, i'll step back from everything i really want to do and move in the direction of the republica republicans, then the republicans need to move in our direction. and i think we're going to be judged by whether we are going to be stuck in the mud because we just don't have the courage to -- to change or whether we step forward at this moment. and i think it should be this moment. and if we can't get it done, i certainly hope we'll have an up-or-down vote on the president's plan which i feel was very, very fair. the president offered a plan that was fair. do i like everything about it? absolutely not. but he showed that he is willing to take those steps. and i would hate to think that our colleagues would filibuster that and demand a 60-vote
threshold as we go over this cliff. so the american people are hanging from the cliff and we can let them down real gently today and solve this problem. but if all we do is stand up and -- and stay in our corners, i'm very fearful that the message is that we don't know how to meet each other halfway, and that is not a good thing. and voters are going to turn on those people who stand in their corners and don't move. that is not the role of legislators. and i'll close with this. we have a -- a different form of government than they have in europe. this is not a parliamentary system. if you're in a parliamentary system, one government rules everything. it's one party rules everythingmeneverything.you hav.
you have the speaker -- the equivalent of the speaker -- and the leader all in one party. and then you don't compromise, you put that out there and you get your program through. if there's a lack of confidence, the people can change parties. the next party comes in and does what it wants. that is not what we do here. sometimes i wish it was the form of government we had because at least there would be some action and you would know what to expect and you wouldn't have this uncertainty. because each party has its dreams, its hopes, its plans. and they would have the chance to get those policies through. we don't have that here.we have to meet each other halfway. because the house is run by the republicans and it will be next time. the senate is run by the democrats but it is not a supermajority. we have to deal with our colleagues. the house -- the president is a democrat. we have to work together.
that's the name of the game. and if we can do it on the highway bill, if -- if i could do it with jim inhofe, if debbie stabenow can do it with pat roberts on the farm bill, i know -- and there are other examples i could give. i could give examples of senator feinstein with her republican counterpart. i could give many examples on the appropriations committee. we know we can do this. we just have to take a deep breath and put our ego as side for this country's sake and make those compromise that allow us to still stand tall. now, i'm only five feet so that's hard, but you get the point. we can do this and we should do it now. and if we don't do it now, we should vote on the president's plan because the people of this country deserve better than to
be left hanging on a cliff. they don't deserve that. it's not right. thank you very much. i yield the floor. note the absence of a quorum and ask that the time be charged -- the presiding officer: who yields time? mrs. boxer: i would note the absence of a quorum and ask that the time be equally divided between the two sides. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson isakson: happy new , mr. president. mr. president, i rise to talk on the no, ma'am station -- the presiding officer: the senate's in a quorum call. mr. isakson: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, i rise to speak for just a moment about the nominee for commissioner of f.h.a., carol galante, whom i had opposed earlier in the year because of some concerns about what the f.h.a. may or may not do. but of no concern whatsoever for her qualifications or ability. she is coming up in the second vote today and i just want to put on the record my wholehearted support of the senate reaching the 60 votes necessary to confirm her appointment. and i want to tell you why. there are some people in the chamber who justifiably have some difficult imernz the f. -- difficult concerns about the f.h.a., its liability on insurance and the fact it's bearing so much of the burden on housing finance. but that's not the f.h.a.'s fault. that's the fault of dodd-frank
and the restrictions on lenders who have forced f.h.a. to be the lender of last resort, or most resort, for most american people. that's something we in the senate have the ability to fix. but we should not punish a talented, experienced, well-qualified, highly recognized individual who knows housing, both multi and single family, from being commissioner at f.h.a. so i rise to say to any member, if you have a problem with f.h.a., don't take it out on miss galante but look at what happened after the passage of dodd-frank and the fact that f.h.a. had to take on a burden because there was no other alternative in housing finance. what we need to do rather than defeating good nominees for office is give those nominees the kind of underpinnings where the laws allow capital to flow to the mortgage markets through various entities and numerous entities so the whole burden doesn't have to be borne by the insurance of f.h.a. and the united states government. so i rise with pleasure to say that i will vote in favor of carol galante for commissioner of f.h.a.
and i yield back. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. corkerer: thank you, mr. president. i rise to speak behind the distinguished senator from georgia, who knows all things housing, has more experience in the housing market than any senator in the united states senate and always speaks with eloquence and balance. and i just want to second what he said. i've spent a lot of time with the nominee, carol galante. she is technically very proficient. mr. president, just over the last two weeks, she has put in place reforms that are very, very strong. they're just a start and i know that a lot more needs to happen at f.h.a. but she's put in place some very significant reforms. one of the things that i know we've been losing billions of dollars with at f.h.a. -- and i think seniors have been taken advantage of -- is something called a full draw, fixed rate reverse mortgage. i think you've seen the advertisements on tv.